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20 question, 2019

I recently asked my Facebook friends for help with a new group of questions for this page, and here’s what they came up with! Aren’t they amazing?

One.   From Bex Aaron

When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

A princess. Definitely a princess. I actually have a crayon drawing I did in kindergarten with a few words written underneath where we were asked exactly that. I wrote, “I want to be a princess. (except I spelled it pinses) I will wear a beautiful dress. I will come out on the stage and everyone will clap.” So….I didn’t make it to royalty, damn the tiaras, but I did get to wear a lot of nice dresses and take a few bows! Ha!

Two.   From Brad Dolron

What can you do to show people your heart rather than your appearance?

Fantastic question. First of all, some people will always see only your appearance no matter who you are or what you do, and that’s their bad. In my life, I have found that showing respectful interest in other people gives them a chance to relate to you in a more honest fashion. Your actions will reveal your heart, after that it’s up to the receiver to see you clearly.

Three.   From Tim Takacs

Why? Twenty times.

I’m assuming Tim is either a four year-old or he has at least one. This is exactly what toddlers do, and it’s hysterical. Once you’ve experienced it, you come to understand why moms finally just resort to, “Because I said so!” So that’s my answer to Tim. Ask a silly question…

Four.   From Amanda Lise

What’s the best thing about being around kids?

Their honesty. I like the un-programmed ones best, you get both the brutal criticism (‘Why are you wearing a bathrobe to school?’ It was a designer sweater!) and the joy unfiltered, (random high-pitched screaming with delight) and frankly, they are more interesting and fun than grown ups. Or maybe it’s just that my own emotional age is better matched with humans who have yet to reach double digits on their birthday cakes!

Five.   From Kathy Hutchens.

What would you say to your 21 year-old self?

Get down off that scaffolding and sober up! Actually, I wasn’t a drinker, but I was a cocaine addict, bad. There would be no use in telling me to stop, it doesn’t work that way, but I would tell myself to examine and face what made me resort to seeking numbness and work on it. Good news is…I did!

Six.   From Wendy Kennedy Benson.

Have you ever read a book or seen a film that made a profound impact on you?

Oh, so many. Number one book was probably “Another Roadside Attraction” by Tom Robbins. He is the master of metaphor and that inspired me artistically, but the concept and ideas contained within its inspired absurdity pried my brain open and made me see that accepting any belief system as gospel without questioning it just because it’s been force fed to me since birth is insanity itself. The underlying message of the book is that as a race, a planet, a philosophy, humans are lost with out the feminine—that we are out of balance, that art and love and nature are what make us fundamentally human. The idea of a damaged and limping patriarchy told through humor and beauty shaped my life, still does. It’s also just plain funny and brilliant.

Seven.   From Glen Colton.

When did you first understand the meaning behind, ‘two wrongs don’t make a right?

When my sister fell off the back of chair and my mom flew into the room and smacked me before she even asked what had happened. Sigh, life is like that sometimes.

Eight.   From Eileen Hargis

What one particular choice you made in your past, would you do completely differently if you could?

I wouldn’t have let others define me. The acceptance or praise of others is a very shaky foundation on which to build your self-worth, and I think the main reason for my drug abuse, unhappy marriages, and various other bad behaviors is that I was raised to think more about how people saw me than how I felt about them. I had an aha moment about this when I was modeling in New York and one of the most famous models ever was in the makeup chair next to me being a total bitch to everyone. The makeup artist spun her chair to face him and read her the riot act. “All right that’s it. Listen up honey, you are a model, not a cure for cancer, you don’t feed the hungry or educate the masses, you are today’s popular pretty one, and tomorrow someone prettier and younger will come along, so get over yourself.” Then he spun the chair back resumed working. I sat there and watched her blot her eyes as tears welled up. It was an awesome life lesson for me.

Nine.   From Toni Carbo.

What’s the best advice you were given but didn’t take and wish you had?

Go to college. I’m big on self-education and I never stop learning, but I do adore the process as well as the result and I know I would have really enjoyed a few years devoted to just exploring the myriad of knowledge and questioning that academia can offer. Never too late! I’ve thought lately of going back and studying medicine. I could be a brain surgeon by 70!

Ten.   From Mary Rokicki

What are the worst and best things you ever did?

Girrrrl, loaded question and not one I can answer on many levels to protect the guilty as well as the innocent! Best thing in acting? Cabaret. Worst thing in acting? Naked Cage. Best thing in writing? Invisible Ellen. Worst thing in writing? You’ll never see it, editors had the sense to pass. Hey, we all have a learning curve! Best thing in life? Travel, the antidote to ignorance. Worst thing in life? Being ignorant with arrogance. Assuming I knew it all when I was without even basic understanding. Hopefully, the best of me is yet to come and the worst is fading into history. Fingers crossed.

Eleven.   From Diane Ralph Kiriaji

Where do you get your inspiration for writing?

 Life, the universe, and everything. Any little moment can do it. A couple arguing at the grocery store, an act of kindness that was meant to go unnoticed, social norms, injustice I witness, humans I admire. My first novel “Loaded” was initially inspired by a story on the news about a man who was shot after he had given his wallet to the mugger. It made me furious and I thought, what if that man had been armed and it had gone the other way? I thought it would be the climatic scene in the book. Turned out to be the opening few paragraphs. You never know.

Twelve.   From John Kalani Zak

If you hadn’t gone into acting and writing as a career path, what career path would you have chosen?

Brain surgeon, chef, lit teacher, park ranger, biologist, architect, social worker, I’m one of those people with a plethora of interests but only a thin icing of general knowledge of many things, so I could have been happy and interested in multiple careers. Most importantly there must be some creative interest and a sense that I am connecting with others on a worthwhile level. Took me a while to figure that out and I’m much happier now.

Thirteen.   From Rene Guerrero

What is your favorite dish to share? And what story does that dish tell us about you?

This is a good one because food is such an integral part of our story as humans, our families, our cultures, and our creativity. I love to cook and I love to incorporate flavors and recipes from many countries and ethnicities, so my favorite thing to share is always something new and delicious. Both my parents were amazing cooks and world travelers, I remember them coming back from Greece and serving octopus stew to friends in their Atlanta suburb in the sixties. Their guests’ initial horror and subsequent comments were hysterical, but you know what? Everybody ate it, loved it, and found out something new about food and themselves just that little bit. That’s what I love, sharing an experience. (side note: I don’t eat octopi any more, now that I know how intelligent they are.)

Fourteen.   From Dani McMartin

Women are constantly told they lack relevance as they age. Hollywood reinforces this misconception. What are three things that make you feel valuable and relevant?

Husband. Writing. Nature. My husband, who still looks at me as if I’m the sexiest thing on the planet reminds me that physical relevance only matters to those I choose to please, who cares what some dude in his mom’s basement tweets about your appearance? Want a remedy for that? Ask him to post a picture of himself so we can offer our comments and you will never hear from him again. Writing allows me to share thoughts, hard-earned wisdom, and the beauty of language with others that I would otherwise never meet or with whom I would never have an exchange. I. Love. That. Nature, in all its glory, infinite possibility, and changing magnificence reminds me that I am a miniscule speck of life in an unimaginably huge universe. I find it comforting that in the end, it isn’t about me and my tiny man-made problems. I don’t need to fear death or adopt some medieval philosophy to cover that fear. I feel the glory of creation and belonging, I am already a part of everything, and energy never dies.

Fifteen.   From Carolyn R. Parsons Chaffy

I would like to know how you got into acting and also why you started writing fiction novels.

Full discloser, Carolyn is a fellow novelist I greatly admire but have never met, who also submitted the question, ‘Boxers or briefs?’ So lets do both. Boxers, I like a little swing room, and I love to wear them myself to sleep in on hot nights. As for question two, I love reading, I love stories, I love books as a gateway to other lives and worlds. I wrote my first ‘book’ when I was in second grade, illustrated it myself. I left it on the playground and some boys found it and tore it up. The teacher made them remake it for me and presented it back to me. First time I saw my work in ‘print,’ (someone else’s writing). Sure, people are still trying to rip up my stories sometimes, but I get a lot more love than destruction these days, thanks to good people like you. Acting was not something I necessarily set as a goal initially. I was modeling, went into commercials, and figured I’d better learn to act. I fell in love with it as a form of expression, but it wasn’t until I got into theatre that I found it creatively fulfilling. There is nothing like having an audience in the palm of your hand, either pulling out the laughs or feeling them all lean forward in their seats and begin to breath in rhythm during a heart-breaking moment. It’s my religious experience, the sense of shared experience and community that most people find in church, that’s why actors call the theatre their church.

Sixteen.   From Ester M. Rubin

Have you ever met someone who has inspired or influenced your life?

 I have had many teachers, from haters to those filled with unconditional love. Number one on that list is a young girl named Desi Geestman. She was the daughter of one of the crew on Y and R and when she was diagnosed with stage four cancer and given a five percent chance to live, her dad invited me to go visit her. I told him I didn’t think she would care about me, I was just a soap actress but he said, “Anything to distract from the pain.” So I went, fell in love, and we became great friends. Her courage, humor, faith, and spirit remind me everyday what is important in life. She started a huge shift in me that continues and grows to this day. Desi died two years after I met her and we started the Desi Geestman Foundation within eight months, I’m still one of the directors. Miss her, but she is with me every step of the way in my endeavors to be of service to others.

Seventeen.   From Jill Christa

As a child, what was your favorite book?

 The Hobbit. It’s still right up there in all time favorites. I was a very advanced reader and was always getting in trouble for reading during class. I’m so glad now—the detentions were worth it!

Eighteen.   From Brian Helm

Do you feel that appearing in movies such as Body Chemistry III or appearing In Playboy has helped or hurt your career as an actress?

Okay, let’s clear this shit up. First of all, I didn’t appear ‘in’ Playboy. I was never a playmate. I was asked to be, but refused because yes, that would have pigeonholed me and I would have had to climb up out of that hole. I was hired as a model to appear on several covers of Playboy, see my photo gallery, a very different job. Also, I never took a movie role that wasn’t an acting challenge, especially if it involved nudity. In other words, I was never the chick with no character name who took her shirt off or lounged naked by the pool in the background. I turned that down many, many times. Body Chemistry III was presented to me as “Midnight Kiss”, a move that the producer later confessed he used to trick me into accepting the role, knowing I wouldn’t if I’d known the real title and history of the franchise. Remember, the script is not necessary what ends up on screen. The part, Claire Archer, was a really interesting psychological study and I threw myself into it. You have to shoot nude scenes with the same commitment to the scene as any other, so I did. I’m sorry the producers turned out to be as sleazy as they were, actors don’t control the editing, but I did good work and that’s all I can do. Did it help or hurt? Who knows?

Nineteen. From Kathy Spanner.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

Honestly? I would be just a little less empathetic. It hurts. Sometimes I envy people who can hear that a child is dying for lack of medical care and shrug it off. I can’t do that, I have this overwhelming sense of  needing to help. I spiral into depression wondering how I can fix the world and make people care enough to want to do it too. It’s a fool’s game, but in the end I’d rather be a sucker than an asshole, so I’ll take the knocks and keep doing what I can when I can, that’s what makes life worth living to me.

And…Twenty! From Lori Ell-Burns

What are some serendipitous events in your life?

Falling in love with my husband. I wasn’t looking, wasn’t expecting, and didn’t even realize how unhappy I was. If you define serendipitous as ‘happy’ then every sunrise is a serendipitous event. Every exchange with a friend is serendipitous, every creative thought, glimpse of sunlight on snow, baby’s laugh, or lover’s kiss. If you define serendipitous as ‘unexpected’, well, then, I’d say those moments when your perception opens up and makes you go, ‘Oh, I never thought of it like that,” or “I never knew that.” Every time life makes you look around corners, or take off the blinders is a serendipitous event, and I have been blessed with thousands. We all are if only we look for them with open eyes and hearts. Even expected, common things can be a kind of surprise or awakening when you look at them from a different, possibly even someone else’s, point of view. My next book is called, “The Look Again Man,” and it is about exactly that. You think you know something, and then, you look again…

Then, from way back in 2014.

First, thanks to my twitter friends for the questions, you gave me some really good ones!

Here’s a question from Courtney. Would you like to write for a prime time TV Show?

Sure! As long as I can still wear worn out jeans and a sweater or t-shirt, (depending on the weather). Most television shows are so tightly formatted that one friend who does it for a living described it as writing Haikus. My favorite thing would be to write something that was both dramatic and funny. I’m a bit daunted by the schedule they have to keep, and I know from working on shows as an actress that so many decisions are made by committee that it is sometimes difficult to be as creative as you would like to be. But, bring it on! I’m cracking my knuckles now!

And three questions from Cindy. If you were on a deserted island what 3 things would you take with you and why?

Okay, let’s assume there is plenty of fresh water, fruit, fish, and something to build a suitable shelter with, I mean, necessities first, but then….

#1. My husband, since we’d rather spend time with each other than anyone else and for other obvious reasons.
#2. A trunk full of classics that I never had time to read or that I love so much I will read them again and again. (Imagine, nothing to do but read, heaven!)
#3. Sunscreen!

What is the quality you admire most in a man? In a woman?

I don’t know that the qualities I admire are different in a man or a woman. The two qualities I admire most in life are kindness and courage. But I also value intelligence, open-mindedness, an eagerness to learn, a consciousness about helping others, and…a great laugh!

Who are your favorite heroines in real life? Fiction?

My number one heroine in real life is the director of my charity, The Desi Geestman Foundation. Ileana Geestman. She lost her daughter, Desi, when she was twelve, and within eight months had a charity up and running in her name. Most people who loose a child can’t face anything to do with other’s pain in that way, but she has made a life of helping others going through the same thing. In fact, the whole family has. Desi always wanted to help the other children she saw suffering when she was going through her cancer journey, and that will to help and love lives on through her family, her mother, and the efforts of so many caring people at City of Hope hospital and many others.

My favorite heroine in fiction? Probably Amanda in Tom Robbins’ “Another Roadside Attraction.” She is the embodiment of the feminine in a completely unassuming way that is mixed with magic. “When Amanda became pregnant during a thunderstorm, she was heard to muse, ‘Was it the lightning, or the lover?’ When her child was born with electrical eyes, no one laughed.”

And from Monica. Do you believe in life after death and if yes, what would you like to be once reborn?

I do believe that no energy ever dies. I have heard and seen too many things to think that it is impossible for that energy to go on after the physical self dies. As for straight reincarnation? If I were to come back it would be as a flying squirrel. Think how much fun I could have! And everyone would think I was amazing for doing what came naturally. Whee! Look out, I’m going to jump!

Do you prefer plot or character driven stories and why?

I prefer both. I like my plots to move along, because…that’s what I like to read! But if the characters don’t have an ‘arc’ then my actor self gets frustrated. When I read a script I look for ways that the character grows or changes, that makes for an interesting part to play. On the other hand, my favorite author is P.G. Wodehouse, who managed to keep his stable of fabulous characters the same for over ninety novels, and countless short stories and series. That’s why I go back to those books again and again, it’s always funny and safe there. But for me, I need a body in the library every couple of chapters. Let’s move it along!

When you write your characters, how much of yourself do you give to them?

A little piece of my heart (and/or a twisted part of my brain) goes into each and every one. If I can’t make them real and relate to it, it doesn’t work. I’ve acted so many different characters, played enough moms, psychos, murderers, ball-busting businesswomen, terrified victims, et al, to know that we each have all of those people in us. We just have to isolate those traits, and then exaggerate!!

And from Brittney. What advice can you give to new actors and to new authors?

Number one, Don’t take it personally!! Choosing either of those careers catapults you into a ruthless, competitive world. You will meet some very helpful, kind people, but not very often. Acting especially. Think of it this way; most people go job-hunting a few times in their lives and it’s nerve-racking, actors do it every day! It’s tough on the confidence. And the real truth is, once you get down to those with talent, who gets the part and becomes super successful is random! I remember a friend, a very big actor, saying to me, “You can’t control whether or not the show or film is successful, you can only do the best job you can on it and keep your fingers crossed!” And I remember Clint Eastwood receiving a lifetime award saying, “Having a career like mine is like winning the lottery, three times!” And he didn’t say it to an empty chair. As a writer, I have only this to say; find your voice. Do not try to imitate anyone else’s, they’ve already done it! All you have to offer is your unique point of view and way of expressing it. Seek it out. It’s worth it.

And from Morgaine. What are your hobbies? Favorite travel destinations? Food, music?

Whoa there Bessie, that’s a long list. But briefly…

Hobbies— cooking, hiking, gardening, sewing, wild flower arranging, photography, writing, learning, reading, laughing, meeting interesting people, craftsy stuff and staring at the sky.

Travel destinations— Italy, especially Venice, the Caribbean, (where my family had a second home when I was growing up, heaven!) our amazing national parks, anywhere with deep, primal forests, Africa, especially Kenya, Holland, Northern England and Scotland, and anywhere else that is beautiful, rich in culture, or has excellent or unique cuisine, art and history.

Food—all of it, as my new character Ellen says, especially bacon.

Music— classical, big band, jazz and blues. I’ll take Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald over almost anybody. I only wish I could have seen them play live! That would be my Cochella!

And last, from Beth W. What is the secret of happiness?

I’m so glad someone finally asked me that. The secret to happiness is to expect nothing. If you expect and ask for too much, you will always ultimately be disappointed, because no thing or experience can fulfill you permanently. On the other hand, if you expect nothing in particular, then when good things happen you will always be delightfully surprised and richly rewarded. It can also help to remind yourself how happy you are. That works too.